Encryption machine by Alexander von Kryha – €8500 (£7390) at Schreiber.

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In a box of giveaways on the pavement he discovered a rare encryption machine from 1926.

It was the invention of the Ukrainian-German cryptologist Alexander von Kryha. He developed his device in the 1920s, incorporating two round alphabet-rings, one fixed for the original text, one mechanically movable for the encoded version.

Kryha was convinced that his model was superior to the Enigma which was used by the German military. However, he found only few takers for his machine; it was used by German Diplomatic Corps for some time, then abandoned.

As American cryptologists demonstrated in the early 1930s, Germany’s opponents had little to fear from Kryha’s machine: it took them just over two hours to unravel an encoded message, using just pencil and paper. The Enigma proved a much harder nut to crack.

Kryha’s company subsequently went bankrupt and his attempt to revive it in the 1950s also ended in failure. The inventor’s life came to a tragic end in 1955, when he committed suicide.

Ironically, his machines are now sought-after collector’s pieces.

The example in the auction held in Niedernhausen, a small town 25 miles west of Frankfurt, was guided at €500, but went on to sell to an English-speaking bidder for €8500 (£7390).